- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2001

Presidential candidate George W. Bush last year referred to China as a "strategic competitor" rather than a "strategic partner." The conduct of the Chinese after the mid-air collision between the Chinese jet fighter and the Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane, along with the detention of the 24 crew members and the capture of the aircraft, illustrate the correctness of that terminology. While it is good the troops are home from China, it is important our president did not apologize for the collision.
In the first few months of office, President Bush has consistently let friend and foe alike know that there is a new sheriff in town in the realm of U.S. foreign policy. It is in the vital interest of the United States that the new administration gets the word out consistently to our friends and foes so they may adjust their policies lest they make errors of judgment. The world, especially China, needs to understand the new posture and policies of this recently elected president.
When the United States took out the rebuilt Iraqi radar shortly after President Bush was sworn into office, he demonstrated that he would act when necessary. It was important to act because Saddam Hussein in the last few years had violated the peace agreement with the United States and her allies that he signed to end the Persian Gulf War. Furthermore, the Iraqis had installed radar that threatened U.S. aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone. If Iraq continues to flaunt the inspections for weapons of mass destruction, it will show the world that rogue states need not take the United States seriously.
Not only did the Clinton administration fail to enforce the inspection agreements, it replaced the name "rogues states" to "states of concern" in the hope of improving relations with the likes of North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. To think that this change in terminology would result in different behavior showed an incredible naivet at best, and a destructive, destabilizing weakness at worst.
Perhaps more importantly, Mr. Bush tossed out 50 Russian spies, a rather dramatic move that sent a strong message to Russia. He has also made it quite plain that he will pursue a National Missile Defense, despite the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) signed in 1972 with the old Soviet Union. Since then, missile technologies are proliferating to some rather unsavory regimes.
Another message recently was sent to the leaders of North and South Korea. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung visited Washington, and shortly thereafter he accepted the resignation of his foreign minister. Why? The foreign minister failed to advise his president properly on the importance that the new administration places on National Missile Defense. Thus, Kim Dae-jung issued an earlier joint communiqu with Russian President Vladimir Putin that called on the United States and Russia to continue to abide by the 1972 ABM Treaty. The former foreign minister also apparently misunderstood that the Bush administration is less inclined than the previous one to trust the statements of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il concerning North Koreas missiles and nuclear weapons.
How can the United States seem to be so direct in taking these positions? It is because we are unique in the world. Whatever regional conflicts blow-up in the Middle East, the Balkans or anywhere, the United States alone provides a guarantee of world stability. There is simply no other country in the world with our moral, political, economic or military strength. It is not even close. But if the United States vacillates or is weak, the world loses confidence, and all bets are off. Anything is possible.
The Chinese leadership must bear all of this in mind as it contemplates its next move on the world stage. It may seem they held the best cards in their recent contest with the United States. They did not. In a sense, they dug themselves in a hole and had to find a way out. Their leaders lack legitimacy since their citizens do not enjoy free elections. While China is an emerging military power, its repressive government could collapse as did the old Soviet Unions. Despite its huge population, its economy is only one-fourth the size of Japans and about one-tenth of ours. China wishes to join the World Trade Organization, host the Olympics of 2008, and generally be regarded internationally with respect. They put all of these interests in jeopardy when they show their ugly side as they did in recent weeks. Their next test will come when the United States sells arms to Taiwan. We cannot do otherwise given the nature of the Chinese regime.
E-mail: [email protected]

Michael Warder is vice president for the Claremont Institute based in Claremont, Calif.

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